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International Justice in the News

The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life brings you a monthly selection of news about the people involved in the work of international courts and tribunals, significant developments in international justice, and publications and resources of interest. We hope that this brief selection will help you keep abreast of the field and lead you to sites where you can inform yourself further.

December 2013

Featured News

7 people standing around a statue of a woman
International and Congolese judges at the
Putten War Memorial in The Netherlands

Brandeis University, in collaboration with Physicians for Human Rights and the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation, recently concluded a judicial colloquium on “Adjudicating Sexual Violence under International and Domestic Law: the Case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” The event, which took place in The Netherlands, brought together international judges with those serving on both civilian and military courts in the DRC. The principal aims of the colloquium were: 1) to provide an opportunity for national and international judges to share experiences about adjudicating cases of sexual violence; 2) to discuss the international jurisprudence that has emerged around these crimes and its application at the domestic level; and 3) to establish a peer network that judges working on sexual violence cases can use for advice and support. Read more about the event here.

Read about the ongoing trial of Congolese government soldiers accused of rape here. Learn more about how sexual violence is treated in the international justice system through two recent publications: Phillip Weiner’s “The Evolving Jurisprudence of the Crime of Rape in International Law” and Chiseche Salome Mibenge’s Sex and International Tribunals: The Erasure of Gender from the War Narrative.

People in the News


Mr. Geoffrey A. Henderson (Trinidad and Tobago) has been elected as judge of the International Criminal Court, with a term that will run until 10 March 2021. Judge Henderson will serve the unexpired portion of the term made vacant as a result of the resignation of another Trinidad and Tobago judge, Anthony Carmona, who has since been elected head of state. Read more about the new judge’s background from Trinidad and Tobago’s Newsday.

Elliasson pointing with his right handUN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson recently called for the international community to provide funding for the Khmer Rouge war crimes tribunal (Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, or ECCC). The UN-backed tribunal is facing financial challenges that prevent it from completing its work. In operation since 2006, the ECCC was unable to pay its staff for a number of months, leading to a September strike.  Read more about the funding crisis here.

Tulkens smiling
Judge Françoise Tulkens

Women judges and scholars from across the globe recently convened for a special conference at the Université Libre de Bruxelles -- The Judge is a Woman: Reality, Impact and Justification for Gender Diversity on the Bench. Participating judges included Francoise Tulkens (former Vice President of the European Court of Human Rights), Baroness Hale of Richmond (Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom) and Susanne Baer (Justice of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany). In a detailed review of the event Cecilia Marcella Baillet wrote, “The conference left me with the sensation that there is a very real need for academics, practitioners, and students to engage in order to pursue improved diversity within academia, the profession, and the courts. There should be increased discourse and exchanges between the national and international regimes, and improving the statistics should be made top priority by the professional and academic associations.”

KonyJoseph Kony, the leader of the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army made famous by Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 Campaign, is rumored to be in “surrender talks” with the government of the Central African Republic. Kony, allegedly suffering from an acute illness and looking for a guaranteed safe haven, has been wanted by the International Criminal Court since 2005. While details on this development are still emerging, the Justice in Conflict blog speculates that Kony is still looking to avoid The Hague.

Bemba sitting behind a computer screenFour members of the defense counsel for Jean-Pierre Bemba at the ICC have been arrested for committing “offenses against justice,” including falsifying documents and bribing witnesses. The arrested are allegedly the Lead Counsel, case manager, a member of the DRC Parliament, and a defense witness. The former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. Bemba has been on trial in The Hague since 2010 for his alleged role in the atrocities committed in the Central African Republic. Learn more about the arrest and read the Prosecutor’s statement here. Read a note of caution about the arrests from Opinio Juris, which suggests that the arrests might be a violation of the accused's right to have legal assistance of his choosing.

Prince Taylor shaking hands with another man. A third man is in the backgroundAt the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a three-judge panel at the Appeals chamber recently overturned the contempt conviction of former SCSL defense investigator Prince Taylor on the grounds that the original decision had relied primarily on false testimony given by a witness. The ruling was the last of the SCSL’s judicial proceedings before it closes down later this year. Read the press release

Developments in International Justice

Two people holding hands: the hands are the only thing seenThe European Court of Justice (ECJ) recently ruled that anti-homosexual persecution is grounds for asylum in the European Union. Specifically, the court addressed whether three gay African men from Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Uganda, respectively, could be granted asylum in The Netherlands, which asked the Court to clarify how to apply EU law. It remains for EU countries to determine whether the situation in a petitioner’s home country amounts to persecution, and if the petitioner is truly homosexual. Read more on the issue here.

The ECJ judgment comes at a time when homosexuality is adamantly rejected in many African countries, such as Uganda and The Gambia, whose President Yaya Jammeh has cited homosexuality as one of the greatest threats to human existence.

A boat on the waterThe International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has ruled in the “Arctic Sunrise” case (Kingdom of The Netherlands v. Russian Federation) that the icebreaker vessel and its detained crew must be released by Russia following the posting of a bond of 3.6 million Euros by The Netherlands. This judgment follows the Greenpeace International vessel’s capture by Russian authorities when it attempted to stop oil drilling in the Barents Sea. Read the ITLOS press release.

LuceroIn its first judgment in favor of a living survivor of Pinochet era abuses, the 
Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has found Chile in violation of 
its obligations to investigate and remedy the arbitrary detention and torture of
 Mr. Leopoldo Garcia Lucero, 80, who was left permanently disabled by the torture
 he suffered at the hands of the government in the 1970s. According to the International Justice Resource Center, “[t]he case raised questions of the IACtHR’s temporal jurisdiction, the adequacy of domestic remedies, and what full reparation for torture victims should comprise.” Chile was ordered to pay the victim what amounts to 20,000 Euros in damages. Read more from The Guardian.

A temple
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently ruled in favor of Cambodia regarding the Temple of Preha Vihear, deciding that the entire disputed area around the World Heritage site on the Thai-Cambodian border belongs to Cambodia. It also reconfirmed a 1962 provision requiring Thailand to remove all troops from the area. Read more details from the Bangkok Post and access the ICJ press release here.

A globe with the letters "ADC" "ICTY" and "TPIY" around itThe Association of Defence Counsel Practicing before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ADC-ICTY) has just concluded its Legacy Conference in The Hague. Panel topics included “Rights of the Accused,” “Transparent Justice: the Defence Experience,” and “The ICTY Legacy.” The keynote address was delivered by ICTY President Theodor Meron. Find more information at the ADC-ICTY website.

A group of people standing aroundBangladesh’s International Crimes Tribunal recently sentenced two expatriates to death for aiding and abetting in the murders of eighteen intellectuals during the country’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. The defendants were convinced in absentia, meaning they were not present for the trial because the court was unable to summon them. They currently reside, respectively, in the UK and US. The court was established under domestic law within the Bangladeshi judicial system, and it has been criticized for pursuing a political agenda. Its previous verdicts sparked violent protests in the country, which have led to over 100 deaths. Read more from The BBC.

Publications and Resources of Interest

Logo of a magnifying glass. It says "ICD: International Crimes Database"The Hague’s Asser Institute has launched an International Crimes Database (ICD), which it describes as “a new website that offers a comprehensive database on international crimes adjudicated by national, as well as international and internationalized courts and will provide access to a range of information not just for lawyers and judges but also for students, NGOs, academics, families and communities of victims of crimes, and others.” The site has summaries and backgrounders on over 500 cases related to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, piracy and terrorism. There are also a number of commentaries available. Access the ICD here.

Book cover of "Freedom of Artistic Expression"In arguably the first book of its kind, Paul Kearns (University of Manchester) examines the human and moral rights of artists. Freedom of Artistic Expression: Essays on Culture and Legal Censure (Hart Publishing 2013) explores the problems associated with censorship, both from philosophical and legal perspectives, and focuses on the various ways in which the morality of art is legally regulated in different jurisdictions. In relation to human rights, English, French and American law, the law of the European Convention on Human Rights, European Union law and public international law are all closely scrutinized to discover the extent to which they offer protection for artistic freedom. The author also examines domestic and international law in respect of artists' moral rights, the law of copyright and related laws. Read more about the publication here.

logo of a wreath with two lions and a scale in between. The letters "SCSL" are above and below are the words "Unity Freedom Justice"The Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has become the first international criminal tribunal to articulate the circumstances under which those convicted and serving sentence can be released from prison. In preparing for its imminent closure, the SCSL recently issued its Practice Direction on the Conditional Early Release of Persons Convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.  Access the document here.

Special Opportunity

A map of the world, with a woman holding a scale to the rightThe University of Copenhagen’s Centre of Excellence for International Court (iCourts) is offering both a PhD scholarship and two post-doctoral fellowships to young scholars interested in study and research about international courts. Read more about iCourts and its various programs and research agenda here.

International Justice in the News is edited by Leigh Swigart, Director of Programs in International Justice and Society and Kochava Ayoun '14.

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